Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Second Deepest Canyon in the World

How's that for a fun fact to start off with? So, where I hear you cry, is the second deepest canyon in the world? Well it is for start situated in the state of Arequipa, also home to the world's deepest canyon, Cotahuasi (thank me later when you win the pub quiz with that fun fact) and the other more touristic and visited canyon: Colca Canyon.

We had another early start and pick up time was 3 am, I was slightly berating myself as I had stayed up until midnight in the bar of Wild Rover and I wasn't feeling the most bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Anyhoo, the three hour journey until breakfast was just about spent sleeping. And then we had an uncharacteristically awkward breakfast, where we were forced to listen to a pretentious German spout how well-travelled he was - the type who insists they always goes off the beaten track - and trying to make stilted conversation with two Danish girls was like trying to get blood out of a stone. We hoped this wasn't our group for the whole trip.

Luckily, we were able to stop off at the Condor viewpoint where the promised Condors indeed made an appearance. Describing the experience is quite difficult without sounding like a flowery doylem but it was one of those uncapturable moments and the photos do not do it any justice. Me and Sarah found a viewpoint that no one else was crowding around so it almost felt like we were the only ones there.

Our relations with the group didn't improve in the slightest when after having queued in the longest toilet queue ever, we turned up 15 mins later, which normally wouldn't be too much of a problem as South American timing usually goes as such. But no, this was the second time throughout the whole trip that everyone was there on time. Oops. Cue lots of tutting and sighing once we got on the bus and Germans and French groups loudly expressing their disdain in their disdain thinking we wouldn't understand. Luckily, we were dropped off at the starting point and saved from having to spend the whole trip with them. We were introduced to our guide (his name escapes me now) and we set off to descend into the canyon. 

The trek down was straight-forward - follow the track and keep going down until you reach the bottom. This is where I realised that going as part of a tour is completely unnecessary. As long as you can follow a route and have enough Spanish to get yourself to the starting point, you're good to go solo. The descent took us an hour and a bit and when we reached the bottom, this is what awaited us:

It was just what we needed especially as it had started to properly heat up and we spent our time there by the pool until the sun went down. We spent the rest of the time chatting to the other groups, playing table football and by the time it was 9pm, it was high time for bed. The wake-up call was going to be 5am. We made another amateur mistake by forgetting a flashlight. Funnily enough, at 5 am it is still pitch black so we attempted to navigate ourselves for the first bit with our phones. Our guide took pity on us and gave us a spare headlight.

Whilst getting up at stupid-o-clock is never fun, the satisfaction when you see the sunrise is amazing. Despite the hard ascent, I actually found myself enjoying it although the feeling when we reached the top couldn't be topped. After two hours and a quarter, we had reason to celebrate.

We had a quick breakfast, a quick time to collect ourselves and then we were back on the road again to begin the journey back to Arequipa. One of the various stops along the way allowed us to look over the Colca valley. The panorama was incredible and regardless of the fact that I have seen umpteen terraces, I still can't get over how innovative the Incas were. It's a shame that panorama shots don't fit on the page because you had 180 degrees of amazing landscape.

We eventually arrived back in Arequipa in the evening and it almost felt like we had arrived home. Sadly, my time in Arequipa and travelling around South America was up so it was time to head to my last stop before Colombia: Lima.

Have you been to Colca Canyon? 

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